Pros: Fun. Teaches numbers and sequencing.
It never fails to astonish me that people who claim to be bad at math can quickly figure their favorite baseball players stats, can figure out the cost of a piece of clothing on sale for 35% off, or can master the statistical probabilities of dice and cards. Yahtzee is proof of this with my friends.
My friend Jason, who can't figure the tip on a ten dollar restaurant tab to save his life, can explain in detail why it is better at some point to go for a straight than for a hand with 3 4's or vice versa when we play Yahtzee.
Yahtzee is a fairly simple game. Players take turns rolling 5 dice to try and come up with the best possible "hand." Each player has a tally sheet listing all the combinations he must try to get, the value of each possible hand, and which s/he has rolled so far. Players get three rolls. On each roll they may roll any or all of the dice. The winner is the player with the highest score at the end.
The tally sheet is divided into two halves. The upper half merely asks players to score for rolling 1s, 2s, 3s...etc. If, at the end, the player rolls a score equal to or exceeding 3 of each number, there is a bonus of 35 points given to him. Thus, it is possible to score only 2 3s, but to make up for it by rolling 4 4s. The lower half of the tally sheet looks much like a listing of poker hands. Hands include 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, straights, full houses and 5 of a kind - a.k.a. a Yahtzee.
I much prefer playing with dice to the electronic or computer versions. The dice version encourages social interaction. There is also something pleasingly visceral about the dice. The hand version also helps children with their math skills of addition, multiplication, sequencing and probability.
When playing with younger children in our house, we give various handicaps depending on what the child needs. As the child gets older, the handicaps become less advantageous. We have colored the 1 spot on one dice with a yellow hilighter. If this comes up, the child can play it as a wild card. For younger children, we add a sixth dice and the child can choose the best 5 dice each roll. Finally, for the youngest, we simply give them 4 rolls of the dice instead of 3.
We also have had an adult version played in our house using the yellow one-spot. It's called strip Yahtzee. If a player uses the colored one spot in their roll, their opponent must take off a piece of clothing. The first player to get the bonus on the upper half can also make their opponent take off a piece of clothing. Scoring a Yahtzee means your opponent must take off two pieces of clothing. This game often ends before anyone wins at Yahtzee. There are also "kissing points" in this game. If I score 6 more points on the top half than my opponent, he must give me 6 kisses on my top half. This version, is obviously meant for two players, and is open to lots of variation.
As played normally, this is a great family game. It is also fun for kids to play in the backseat of the car on long drives.
I highly recommend this game for everyone. And if you decide to play strip Yahtzee, dress warm.